Trackwork Handbook


[Contents]     [Track Design]

What I’ve written in this handbook includes both things I did and things I wish I had done when building my modules and while participating in building the Northern California Free-mo group’s new Mojave Yard. I’ve also incorporated comments made by other Free-mo modelers as well. If you’ve never built a module or installed trackwork before, following the recommendations presented here will result in excellent trackwork.

Even the most beautiful locomotives, equipment and scenery are no pleasure if trains don’t stay on the track or don’t look great traveling along it. While prototypical modeling occasionally results in models that simply aren’t suited to reliable operation, most derailments and other operational and appearance issues can be traced to avoidable trackwork problems.

Remember that the Free-mo objective is to create trackwork that is as prototypical, operates as well, and looks as good as our best locomotives and rolling stock. This means that trackwork needs to be treated as an important part of overall modeling work and made as reliable and faithful to the prototype as prize models.

The time and care invested in every step of planning and installing track will invariably be paid back many times over. This is especially true for modular trackwork. While applicable to all trackwork, the emphasis in what follows is on Free-mo trackwork. Everything recommended here is intended to conform to the U.S. Free-mo standard. Northern California Free-mo has created a set of guidelines providing more detailed recommendations while remaining entirely consistent with the Free-mo standard. The group's DCC guidelines can be found in a separate document.

In many of the subjects covered, I emphasize the need for flatness, very gradual transitions between different track heights, etc. A good quality square, a long straightedge (like a metal yardstick) and straight and curved track templates that rest between the rails will help to determine if you have accomplished what you intended. Even though you have and use these tools, nothing will substitute for the following invaluable hint.

After using all the tools available to check your work, sight across and along the module framework, roadbed, and track at rail top level. It's often surprising what is revealed when you do. You'll observe things that your tools may not have exposed. Dips, rises, twists, kinks, crooked track and turnouts, and all manner of other deviations from perfect cabinetry and trackwork will show up with surprising clarity. Do this frequently as you progress through all phases of building your module and your track.

[Contents]     [Track Design]

Gary M. Green